Lakota's Carr can't pitch every game in jump to varsity, but she'll pitch every game

Lakota's Kerstyn Carr
Lakota's Kerstyn Carr

Lakota has one softball pitcher.

She was supposed to toil for the junior varsity team. An injury to Grace Harmon forced junior Kerstyn Carr to step into the circle for the Raiders.

After struggling to gain her footing, Carr is learning to limit run production. She needs more help from her defense, but Lakota's offense is among the leaders in the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division with an average around .350.

"She has to pitch every inning," Raiders coach Troy Lewis said. "Regardless of our record, this girl worked hard and since November. She's put it out there. We're trying to keep her [pitching] through the season.

"She's hung in there with her personality and her spirit."

She can't pitch every game, but she and Lewis will try to best maximize her usage while keeping her healthy. That means a few losses because games won't be played.

Lakota's Emylee Herr
Lakota's Emylee Herr

It hasn't helped that catcher Emylee Herr missed the last two games with an injury. Herr established single-season (36) and single-game (seven) program records for stolen bases last season.

Ready or not, freshman Savanah Vestal was inserted behind the plate.

"We're a very young team," Lewis said. "Emylee is a senior trying to carry us behind the plate. She's batting better than .500. Vestal was thrown in the fire."

Harmon was second-team all-conference as a freshman last season. She won't pitch or bat this season following elbow surgery.

She wanted to contribute with her legs, and her speed remains an asset as a pinch-runner. She stole 28 bases last season.

Carr's ERA is closer to 4.00, after soaring above 6.00 early. She's been a bit of a warrior for her reliability in circumstances that could have been more overwhelming.

"She's improving," Lewis said. "We need to limit errors. She's starting to pitch well when it counts."

Lakota's Savanah Vestal
Lakota's Savanah Vestal

Second baseman Kailynn Smith, shortstop Aubrey Vitte, center fielder Elizabeth Strawman and left fielder Hannah Stahl are also freshmen. Stahl, who shares left field with junior Jocelyn Smith, has a hot bat.

"She's super fast and one of the better shortstops we've had," Lewis said of Vitte. "She's athletic. She bats first or second. She's hitting .400 plus."

Strawman climbs in the order with Herr out.

Senior third baseman Lauren Bennett played varsity as a freshman. She bats in an RBI spot.

"We're a pretty good hitting team," Lewis said. "You have to score more runs than the other team. We're giving away too many."

Lakota's Lauren Bennett
Lakota's Lauren Bennett

Bennett was injured in the final scrimmage last season and missed most of the season.

"She hit two doubles and a single in the postseason," Lewis said. "She's clutch. She just hits and she's lighting it up the last week."

She bats .350 overall but that average jumps to .600 with runners in scoring position.

"She's been that way since she was a freshman," Lewis said. "When you've got runners on second or third, she finds a way."

Senior first baseman Mekenzie Rathburn bats in the heart of the order. She, Herr and Bennett are varsity returners.

Sophomore Christina Lopez is the right fielder.

Lakota (4-10, 3-5) beat St. Mary Central Catholic twice and Danbury once. It still plays Hopewell-Loudon and Tiffin Calvert twice each.

"We'll progress forward getting better," Lewis said. "We have four tough games left."

Lewis, in his fourth year at the helm — the 2020 season was lost to the pandemic —hopes improved pitching and defense merge with the team's bats to close the current campaign.

With five freshmen in key roles, he also looks forward.

"The youth. I'm an optimist, looking at the future. We have three seniors and we're laden with freshmen. I enjoy the excitement from the freshmen. I'm excited about the future of Lakota softball."


Twitter: @MatthewHornNH

This article originally appeared on Fremont News-Messenger: Harmon finds perfect role despite injury for Lakota